Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
Published by Greenwillow on April 1 2014
Genres: young adult, sci-fi
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.
Salvage took me by surprise. I hated the beginning of this book. It was infuriating – the strange jargon, the incredibly misogynistic society of Ava’s ship, the lack of connection to Ava. I was so close to putting this book down on many occasions over the first few chapters. However, when I consulted goodreads, quite a few of my friends, whose opinions I trust, had given this book four or five star ratings, claiming that it was a great feminist read and that Ava was an inspiring, fascinating character. Thus, I pressed on. I didn’t really want to and I hated every minute of it (until a certain point), but I kept reading. It was so worth it.
The story doesn’t truly begin until Ava flees her home ship, the Parastrata, and goes down to Earth. This is where things got really interesting. Earth in this book is far from what I expected from what the goodreads description tells me. I was expecting something bizarre and completely different from what is familiar to me – and in some ways, that is what I got. But it was unfamiliar not because the face of the earth was hugely changed but because it took me to parts of the world I have never seen. I absolutely loved that about this book. YAY FOR ETHNIC DIVERSITY.
Not a single scene takes place in an English speaking country. The first city Ava visits is the impoverished Gyre, home to my two favourite characters Perpetue and Miyole. She later goes to Mumbai to find an aunt whom she has never met, the only family she has left. Ava is exposed to cultures that are vastly different from her own, and it takes a long time for her to adjust.
As much as I hated it at times, I really appreciated how difficult it was for Ava to discard her Parastrata beliefs and the values she was brought up to have. She doesn’t become a completely different person the moment she goes “planetside”. She struggles with fitting in and clings to some aspects of her old life, in particular a boy, Luck. Ava’s obsession with Luck didn’t really make a lot of sense to me – they hardly knew each other, had interacted maybe four or five times total, but I also understood that Ava’s ‘love’ for Luck was born of growing up with incredibly minimal contact with men, and basically none with men outside of her own family. She romanticized Luck because he was ripped away from her and because he was the one person from her old life who never treated her poorly. She couldn’t reflect on her family without thinking about the awful way they treated her – they tried to kill her. In that sense, I think that Ava’s preoccupation with Luck was quite fascinating. It didn’t make me like it, though. It was annoying.
There wasn’t much action in this book. It was very character driven, which is something that I happen to love. I can see how it wouldn’t be to everyone’s tastes. It’s long and at times it drags. It is perhaps a little bit too descriptive, but it is unlike anything else I’ve ever read. It is a truly singular book and I’m looking forward to what Alexandra Duncan comes out with next.